Deep in the heart of Florida sits a Neoclassical Greek Revival mansion known as the Money Pit, built by a Georgia native, who made his fortune running naval stores and lumber. His business controlled much of the turpentine harvest at the turn of the century when citrus, turpentine, and lumber were Central Florida’s primary industries. The house was completed in 1911 after a 3-year build at the cost of $25,000. The house was considered one of the most ornate mansions in the county and quickly became “the talk of the town.”
At 11,000 square feet, the enormous mansion had plenty of room for the lumber tycoon’s wife and their seven kids. Ornate mahogany columns greeted guests in the foyer along with elaborate plasterwork throughout the downstairs. The entire house was built out of mahogany. With the plaster removed, you can get an idea of the craftsmanship that went into constructing the home.
In 1924, the lumber tycoon and his family traded homes with the vice president of a local bank. The Money Pit was sold in the 1940s and converted into a funeral parlor. It remained a funeral home for almost 20 years before being converted into a meeting hall. Soon after it was sold and turned into apartments.
The property went into foreclosure in 1990 and was in a state of disrepair. Without a buyer, the bank asked the city for a demolition permit. The house was listed for sale for $129,000.
In 1992, a couple offered the bank $90,000 and purchased the home, saving it from impending demolition. The house suffered from an extensive amount of termite damage and would require $225,000 or more in renovations.
The new owners estimated the restoration to take five years. A nonprofit organization was created to help restore the house. The goal was to return the house to its original charm and allow opening it to the public as a historic showcase or wedding venue.
After falling ill, the new owners asked the city to take over the restoration effort. The city felt it would be better if a nonprofit organization established explicitly for the house resumed the restoration. In 1995, a nonprofit was formed and was able to apply for and was awarded several grants through the State of Florida, which allowed the repairs to continue. Over time the board diminished, and in 2005 a new board was created. This board was awarded several state grants, but because of the recession in 2008, no funds were allocated by the state that year, or for the following three years. Now, almost twenty-five years since the restoration began, the house remained unfinished.
A historic interior photo showing the fireplace and columns.